What is Dog Separation Anxiety and Will It Kill My Dog?
Dog separation anxiety (also sometimes called dog separation anxiety disorder) is a condition in which dogs become extremely upset when they are separated from their human parents or the humans that they are close to.The condition can be mild or severe and can happen even when the person(s) leave home for a short period of time.
Dogs who suffer from this condition commonly exhibit bad behaviors or bad moods when the person(s) they are attached to are about to leave the home. While some dogs who aren't properly house trained may exhibit these behaviors anyway, in others that are properly trained the condition is more noticeable.
It isn't known exactly why dogs get separation anxiety, but it is common in dogs that have been adopted from shelters. One speculation is that adopted dogs who suffer from the condition have lost someone close to them before.
In many dogs who didn't originally suffer from the disorder, there are certain events that could trigger it. These include the death of a household member, moving to a new residence, or even a change in schedule.
Common Dog Separation Anxiety Symptoms
Dog separation anxiety is a condition characterized by signs of distress exhibited by a dog due to separation from its owner or favorite person.
Here are common symptoms of separation anxiety in dogs:
- Destructive Behavior
- Excessive Barking or Howling
- Urination and Defecation
- Drooling and Panting
- Changes in Eating Habits
- Excessive Salivation
- Attempts to Prevent Owner's Departure
- Overly Excited Greetings
Dogs with separation anxiety often display destructive behavior such as chewing furniture, scratching at doors and windows, or tearing up items around the house. This behavior is typically centered around exit points, like doors and windows.
Excessive Barking or Howling
Continuous barking, howling, or whining is a common symptom, particularly if it starts as soon as the owner leaves and continues until they return.
Urination and Defecation
Even if the dog is usually house-trained, it might urinate or defecate inside the house when left alone.
Dogs may pace in a fixed pattern when they are anxious or stressed.
Dogs with separation anxiety might try to escape from the area where they have been confined when left alone. This could lead to self-injury.
Drooling and Panting
Some dogs might drool excessively, pant heavily, or show other signs of distress when their owner isn't present.
Changes in Eating Habits
Dogs may refuse to eat when their owner isn't present, or they may eat excessively or rapidly as a stress response.
In some cases, dogs may excessively salivate when they are left alone, which is a physical sign of stress and anxiety.
Attempts to Prevent Owner's Departure
A dog might try to block the door, display overly clingy behavior, or show signs of distress (like whining or whimpering) as the owner prepares to leave.
Overly Excited Greetings
While it's normal for dogs to be happy when their owners return, a dog with separation anxiety may display exaggerated, frenzied greetings.
How Harmful is Separation Anxiety for Dogs and People?
Dog separation anxiety disorder in itself isn't dangerous for a dog, but the behaviors that stem from it can be extremely dangerous and unpleasant. Some of the dog separation anxiety symptoms themselves are harmful--the destruction of your things, relieving themselves indoors.
There are others that cause unpleasant outcomes. For example, your neighbors may complain about your dog's incessant barking or howling. If your dog runs away, they could get lost or picked up by local animal control.
Can a Dog Die From Separation Anxiety?
The disorder itself will not kill a dog, so no, a dog cannot die from anxiety, but the behaviors it causes can put a dog's life in danger. For example, a dog can seriously injure themselves when they try to escape from home because they will be frantically trying to get out.
If they happen to succeed in the escape, they could run out into the street and get hit by a car. So can a dog die from separation anxiety? Yes, they can.
Cophrophagia is another concern. Although it is rare, this is a condition in which a dog will defecate and then eat it. This is extremely dangerous for a dog because the dog could get very ill.
Cophrophagia is especially bad because most dog owners won't know that their dog is doing this since the evidence will be absent because the dog has already eaten it. It isn't until the dog is caught red-handed that dog owners become aware of the problem.
Dealing With Separation Anxiety in Dogs
Dealing with separation anxiety in dogs can be a bit time consuming so you must have patience while helping your dog to overcome the condition. If your dog is displaying dog separation anxiety symptoms, the first step you should take is to rule out any other types of medical reasons for your dog's behavior. When you are sure that your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, then you can proceed to help your dog with the condition.
Next, you will need to figure out if your dog has mild separation anxiety or moderate to severe separation anxiety. If your dog has mild separation anxiety, you will be able to treat him with counter-conditioning, which is the process of changing their fearful, stressed behavior to calm and peaceful.
For example, administering CBD Oil about 20 minutes before you leave tremendously helps to quell anxiety before your departure. CBD works to naturally increase serotonin levels, similar to prescription anti-anxiety meds, however, the product is all natural and does not contain any side effects.
CBD also has a calming effect on both humans and pets. CBD should be administered before any stressful event such as long car rides. It is important to note that CBD products for dogs should not contain any of the psychoactive ingredient THC as it can be toxic to dogs.
For severe cases, CBD oil alone may not do the trick and some Vets may recommend powerful sedatives. If you still choose a natural route, the ASPCA recommends consulting a professional. You could seek out a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB).
These professionals are trained to deal with the sensitivity and long-term treatment of a dog with anxiety that suffers from the moderate to severe form of this condition. It may be a long road ahead for you, your dog, and your family, but with determination, love, and support, you will see a huge change in your dog.